David Levine, president, Ring Beams, is a 2018 Northeast Ohio Smart 50 honoree
As a new parent, David Levine understands the frustration of trying to turn the tiny screws on a child’s toy when the batteries need to be changed. He’s also an inventor, so in an attempt to make the job easier, Levine developed a miniature power screwdriver. Customers would love it, or so he thought.
“I did two focus groups, and 15 out of 16 people said they didn’t think it was a good idea,” Levine says. “I still launched it, and I was ultimately proven right. But I’ve been wrong on ideas like that just as often. Too much market research will hold you back, and you’ll miss out on a number of innovations. But being so arrogant that you think you know better, that can be dangerous, too.”
Levine has thus far avoided hubris and proven to be a successful inventor, having launched 21 consumer products in his career. In 2004, he and friend Mike Recker created the Mr Beams brand in response to their own need to illuminate a closet. The business took off, and in 2018 was bought by Santa Monica, California-based Ring. Two months later, Ring was bought by Amazon for $1 billion. Ring Beams combines Ring’s expertise in home security with Mr Beams’ innovative LED lighting technology.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says Levine, president of Ring Beams. “We turned a niche lighting company into an internet of things smart phone company that can now interact with dozens of other devices like cameras, alarm systems and Alexa. It’s a miraculous reinvention of our product line.”
Lead with humility
Levine says being humble is critical when you’re a leader.
“Coming to terms with what you don’t know allows you to highlight those areas and find the people that complement you,” Levine says. “When you’re clear with that, the people around you know when to take over. They know when they can do something better than you can.”
Asking questions is another essential trait to being an effective leader.
“Brad Roller runs my Vistage group and is a very successful entrepreneur here in Cleveland,” Levine says. “He taught me that the quality of a person’s life increases with the quality of the questions they ask. That’s a huge part of my leadership style. In asking questions, I get more information and I can also help people and guide people to better outcomes and better decisions.”
To learn more about David, check out his story in Smart Business Dealmakers.